by Denise Roche
The Pike River report released this week showed how little progress in health and safety New Zealand has made since the days of the Waihi mine strike.
My own grandfather was a miner at Waihi. He died when my mother was small and my grandmother said that working in the mine meant long hours and poor conditions.
Discontent with injuries and fatalities in the mines was one of the major causes of the industrial unrest that bubbled over into violence a hundred years ago during the long strike by the miners of Waihi.
Poor ventilation and respiration meant miners health was often terribly compromised after only a few years. Miners suffered from dust on the lungs. And then there were the industrial accidents and rockfalls which killed and maimed miners on a regular basis. Needless to say, pay was also poor.
This weekend just past the Labour History Project and Auckland Labour History Group marked the centenary of the 1912 Waihi strike.
History tells us we should learn from our past mistakes. The Royal Commission’s report into Pike River shows us we haven’t learned enough in the hundred years since the Waihi industrial action.